Kim Jong-un fauxtographs

While I have no comment on the status or otherwise of Kim Jong-un’s health, I was interested in the photos in the media today purporting that Jong-un attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony.  As I trawled through the internet looking for the photos, I found several photos released by Yonhap News, North Korea of this event and Jong-un’s participation.

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All of the photos were released under the same caption: N.K. leader reemerges after 20-day absence and with varying blurbs; here’s one:  “North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) attends a ceremony to mark the completion of a phosphatic fertilizer factory in Sunchon, north of Pyongyang, on May 1, 2020, in this photo released the next day by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency. Kim made his first public appearance after a 20-day absence that sparked rumors about his health.

Because Jong-un’s health is a current public question, with media speculating that he is unwell, perhaps even quite ill or worse, I was interested.  Were these photos real evidence of Jong-un’s present robust good health?

At first glance they look pretty legit.  But there are many significant issues with this portfolio of photographs.

The first thing that got my attention was the riotous colour of the celebratory cheer by a crowd festooned with flags, streamers, balloons and bouquets of flowers, surrounded by military troops of green and brown.


By comparison, the photograph of the assembly in the high elevation photograph is a somber affair of unrelieved black clothing.


Detail of fertilizer factory crowd

Since this is a small part of the photograph it is hard to decide if any of the green and brown military are present, but where are the balloons?  the flowers? the streamers?

It didn’t seem to be a very sunny day, so I couldn’t depend on shadow evidence, so I looked for other clues. Or could I?  I visited [2]  for yesterday’s weather in Pyongyang.  Hmmm, sunny day and a bit warm, ranging between 23 and 27 degrees Celcius most of the day.  And the high elevation photo does illustrate long shadows stretching towards the upper right of the photo.  As I contemplated the perspectives I could see that shadows would be no help as the assemblage seems to be tucked behind a building to the lower left of the crowd.

Now where is that building in the other photos?  Well, no buildings can be seen in the ribbon-cutting photo, so that’s no help. And the background to the photo in which Jong-un is standing and smiling for the camera doesn’t help either. The only other photo that could tell us is the one in which Jong-un is seated during a speech at the dais.


Now hang on, that isn’t the building either.  In fact, where is the building from the high elevation photo at all? It isn’t there!  And what are those red reflections in the windows of this photo?  Oh, they are the reflections of the red streamers from the celebratory photo.  That means that this photo and the celebratory photo (or at least most of it barring the banner and artist’s rendering) were not taken at the factory where the ribbon is being cut.

So I looked a bit closer at the artistic rendition of the factory behind the seated officials including Jong-un in the celebratory photo (quite small but visible) and and the one in the ‘seated’ photo and ‘ribbon cutting photo’.  Turns out that while they are very similar, closer scrutiny shows they are not the same.




And interestingly, note the large trees in the background (circled) that are not in the high elevation photo (below) where they should be.



The ‘seated’ photo was uploaded again to Yonhap News while I was writing this post.  It was captioned: “People watch a news broadcast on a television at Seoul Railway Station in downtown Seoul on May 2, 2020. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appeared in public for the first time in 20 days, despite a wave of speculation that he might be gravely sick or even dead.”  Fake news for the masses.


And one more little thing to point out before I stop – Jong-un’s sister’s hair seems to have grown quite a bit in one day!

Conclusion – these photographs are montages of pieces of photos taken at 2 different events at a minimum.  As evidence of Jong-un’s public appearance on Friday 1 May 2020?  Fail.



[1] Yonhap News 2 May 2020. Accessed 2 May 2020

[2] Accessed 2 May 2020

All original photos downloaded from Yonhap News and used in accordance with Fair Use provisions of copyright law. All derivative photos are licensed CC:BY:NC.






Burnt landscapes

The summer of 2019-2020 will never be forgotten by those of us who lived through it.  It seemed as though the entire country was on fire.  Each day brought fresh challenges, some of which felt very real even for those of us who escaped being touched directly. Our home remains standing as it did before, with only a few ember scars to tell the tale.  The scars on our psyche from weeks of living in a smoke pall with raging fires nearby are less visible yet more permanent.


This photo captured the moment the smoke moved in on New Year’s Eve. The sunshine in the foreground was the last we saw for over a month.

There were a couple of moments where we were faced with making very difficult choices. There were days of remaining calm while nearby fires spread and merged. The weather – wind direction, traces of moisture, temperature – became vital.  The smoke turned the sky orange and the ash from the fires turned the waves dirty grey.


The birds were flying in skies dense with smoke…


Black swans


Sea eagle

… and the beach was covered in black char…


IMG_0938_small… which was strangely clean because any soluble ash had been absorbed into the ocean.  One could scrunch a handful of the detritus and let it drop without the slightest smudge being left on the skin.


Oddly clean ash and char piled up on the beach

But our community, we were told by the local Rural Fire Service, was incredibly defendable and they intended to defend us.  And they were right, and they did.  With Coila Lake to the North of us and Tuross Lake to the South and the ocean to the East, and the RFS patrolling night and day, we were safe.  The knowledge that if all else failed we could retreat to the beach was comforting.


Pathway to the beach and a reminder to reduce tyre pressure

Overhead giant water bombing helicopters roared just above the trees.


And fire trucks passed beneath our windows.


The Thursday after New Year’s was particularly bad.


Dark smoke so dense the midday summer sun can’t penetrate it

But despite it all we remained safe, and were much more fortunate than many in our area. And though countless millions of hectares of Australian bushland was burnt, the Australian native plants are resilient in the face of firestorms, just like the Australians who live here. In some places the bush is already starting to make a recovery.


Eucalypts regenerating on Clyde Mountain

Hopefully everyone’s spirits will start to regenerate too.


All photos by Sabrina Caldwell.  No photo editing was done on any of the photos other than resizing for web use.



Sunday Night Doppelgangers

“Somewhere in the world, we all have at least one person
who looks exactly like us.”

Melissa Doyle, Sunday Night, 18 August 2019

Last night the television program Sunday Night aired an interesting segment discussing the notion that each of us isn’t the only person on the planet who looks exactly like us – something she refers to as a doppelganger.  Doppelgangers are non-biologically related ‘twins’ of ourselves, though usually a doppelganger has a negative connotation – that the doppelganger is an evil or ghostly twin. Not in this case though.

Sunday Night’s segment on dopplegangers shows how confusing similar looking people in photos can be.  There are many fascinating pairs of doppelganger in this broadcast (which you can see using the 7Plus link in the reference below).  It is captivating to see how alike people can look.  It also seemed an ideal opportunity to demonstrate simple ways to distinguish between individuals in photos and work out if they are or are not the same person.  So what can you look for?

The ‘ears’ have it


‘Doppelgangers’ , Channel 7 ‘Sunday Night’ [1]

In this example, former President Barak Obama (right) seems to have a twin.  But in the briefest of glances an aware photo viewer can see that they are not the same person just by looking at the ears.  The man on the left has strongly attached earlobes, while Obama has completely free (unattached) earlobes.   Barring any accident or damage to the ear, ear shape is purely genetically dictated, and, since ears are complex and variable, ear shape is often different from person to person, and one of the easiest ways to rule out people in photos as matching  – it’s not the same person if their ears don’t match!

Face size matters

But what if the ears aren’t visible or don’t help you identify or rule out the identity of the person in the photo?  Look a bit more closely at the size of the face.  In these photos of John (left) and Neal (right), it is easy to see that John’s face is almost 10% longer than Neal’s face:


Doppelgangers John and Neal [1]

Shape and Colour

But what if they seem to have similar sized heads, or you can’t see their ears as in the photo as in the photos of Niamh and Karen below? There are so many ways in which their faces look similar, especially with matching makeup and hair. How could you tell them apart?


Doppelgangers Niamh and Karen [1]

Well, have a look at their eyes.  You’ll have to zoom in.


Doppelgangers Niamh and Karen – Details of eyes [1]

Look at the differences: the eye colours are a bit different as Karen (right) has greener eyes than Niamh (left), and Niamh’s eyes are shaped differently (more almond shaped and sharper in the inner corners). This is easy to see if you look carefully, even though their eyebrows and lashes have been made up to look identical. The trick is to focus on and compare individual parts and aspects of a person’s face, rather than to view it as a whole.

Hopefully these simple tips will help you next time you’re trying to decide if that woman in a family photo is your Aunt Judy or your Aunt Evelyn!

Doppelgangers, Sunday Night (18 August 2019) Accessed 19/8/19. Images used under ‘fair use’ provisions of copyright law.

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Born or Built? My excellent adventure with Questacon


Read in Spanishsmall_20190328_110956

This morning I attended the launch of Questacon’s Born or Built? exhibit.  I was invited because I feature in it! Yes, that’s right, along with a few others of my colleagues I am part of the exhibit, expressing my views as a computer scientist on aspects of robotics, from our relationship to them, through to serious ethical questions such as who is responsible for them and their actions.  Here I am!


This exhibit is the culmination of more than a year of extraordinary work by the Questacon team (Doug, Matt, Alex, Jason are the delightful people who engaged with us on the exhibit).  There are so many engaging activities in the exhibit, and of course robots.

small_20190328_10424520190328_104419Our Human Centred Computing team, led by Professor Tom Gedeon, met with the Questacon crew several times to offer input into some of their already admirably managed strategic directions, and one of our group, Sharifa Alghowinem, was a key contributor to the “Is this a face?” activity.

Last spring (that’s October here for my USA readers) Alex asked me if I would be willing to be filmed for this exhibit.

I gulped, applied makeup for the first time in 10 years, and went.  I’m so glad I did! It is extraordinary seeing yourself weighing in on important matters alongside notable peers, knowing that perhaps 500,000 people or more might listen to my views in the coming year.

The launch was a great affair, with Questacon Director Graham Durant speaking and the Australian Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel formally opening the exhibit. Our College Dean, Professor Elanor Huntington, spoke at the event as well. An enormous group of children excitedly trying out all the activities and a quite active robot brought life (both human and robotic) to the exhibit.

When you get a chance, be sure to pay a visit to this exhibit.  It is super fun, mind-expanding, and profound.


p.s. I couldn’t resist adding this snap in as well.  I have never had my name in lights before!



All images by Sabrina Caldwell – taken with a Samsung cellphone.  Images cropped and resized for web use.
No other changes made.
Questacon exhibit home page

To see Dr Alan Finkel Chief Scientist tweets on this event:




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Ringing the New Year Resolutions: Photos ‘just because’

Photos ‘just because’

Sometimes I find myself not posting anything on this blog because I want to ensure I keep to my mission of “a public forum to explore the art, technology and social implications of photographs, photoart, and everything in between.” [1]  In doing so I cheat myself of the fun of sharing my photos ‘just because.’ So for 2019 I’ve decided to sprinkle in more photographs.

Dolichopodidae fly

Here’s the first example (only 86 hours into the New Year too; I’ve also decided to procrastinate less).  It is a tiny green metallic fly that obligingly scurried up and down the rail of our back deck for the time it took me to take over 4 dozen photos with my new Canon 58-100mm  macro lens.  Only about 7 of the 50 were in the ‘good’ range, and these are the 4 best of them. Not bad for my first try at macro photography!

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I tried to identify this fly, and tentatively identified it as being a ‘long-legged fly’ in the family of Dolichopodidae.  As tiny as he is (perhaps 5-6mm), he is a predator fly, who eats other insects even tinier than himself [2].

Certainly they have the required speed; here’s a photo of him taking off while I was clicking the shutter button!




All photos cropped for web-use only – no other changes.

[1]  About page

[2] Joseph M. Cicero, Matthew M. Adair, Robert C. Adair, Wayne B. Hunter, Pasco B. Avery, et. al.  (2017) Predatory Behavior of Long-Legged Flies (Diptera: Dolichopodidae) and Their Potential Negative Effects on the Parasitoid Biological Control Agent of the Asian Citrus Psyllid (Hemiptera: Liviidae)   Florida Entomologist, 100(2) : 485-487  Florida Entomological Society URL:  Accessed 4 January 2019.





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